Happy Hour Is Here Again: Welcome To China's "New Town of National Liquor"

Move over, South Beach. Fugeddaboutit, Cannes. The world capitol of hearty partying has found a new home in China's “New Town of National Liquor”. Actually it's not the drunk & drunker crowd who are setting up house & home in the town where every hour is Happy Hour – nor are its new residents doing so by choice.

It all has to do with Moutai, China's national drink with a sparkling history that goes back 800 years. Moutai is a spirit distilled from fermented sorghum that is available in a range of proofs. It has always been thought that the unique climate of Maotai village, located in Guizhou province in southwestern China, gave Moutai its exceptionally smooth taste and distinctive aroma. As the town's population grew and nearby rivers used by Kweichow Moutai distillery became polluted, concern rose that China's national drink would lose both its flavor and its reputation.

A solution was found that addresses the pollution problem and the interests of the people of the town. Almost 400 small independent distilleries will be closed and up to 16,000 people will be relocated to a “New Town of National Liquor” some distance away. The costs of the move are being underwritten by China Kweichow Moutai Distillery Co. and the Guizhou provincial government which has already spent more than 3 billion yuan ($450 million) to protect the Chishui River, from which the brewery draws its water.

What will life be like for those who've made the move to China's New Town of National Liquor? Will driving become more risky than usual? Will Chinese university students descend upon the town annually on the nation's version of Spring Break? And of course, won't someone think about the children before the whole social experiment ends up, er, on the rocks? (via China Daily and China Today)

*** UPDATED! Originally published on April 20th, 2010